For our book chat members, the content of this detailed Bryn Mawr Classical Review of the German publication Römisch-germanische Begegnung in der späten Republik und frühen Kaiserzeit. Voraussetzungen-Konfrontationen-Wirkungen. Gesammelte Studien by Dieter Timpe, 2006, should be of interest, given last Wednesday's discussion.
(my translation of the title: Roman-Germanic Encounters in the Late Republic and Early Principate)
[…] In his introduction (3-18), T. explains the impossibility of writing straightforward 'Germanic' history, principally because 'Germani' is a Roman construct. There was never an ancient, independent and self-aware Germanic 'nation', viscerally opposed to the Roman Empire, only middle and northern Europeans messily but positively interacting with their southern neighbours -- Celts, then Romans. T. argues that Rome's dealings with the northern barbarians are obscured by the paucity of the sources and their propensity to distort what they describe according to their own experiences and expectations.
[…] T.'s main themes are easy to recognise. Historiographically, he stresses that most of our sources, preferring preconception over experience, seriously misinform us about Germanic affairs. Their projection of an absolute polarity between 'Germanentum' and 'Römertum' played a crucial role in shaping German nationalism, which remains an embarrassment for contemporary German historians. However, their misinformation may be corrected by assessing what they say against the wider geographical and historical context. Historically, he is equally keen to assert that, contrary to the sources, in their practical dealings Romans and Germani were generally cooperative. His 'big idea' is certainly that under different circumstances Rome could have provincialised Germania, and that what determined otherwise was the emergence of an axis of Suebian power up the Elbe.
Hat tip: Adrian Murdoch